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Published: Saturday, 10/11/2008

New Kids have been around the block too long

This is the New Kids' first new album in 14 years, since they sold more than 70 million albums over the '80s and '90s. They are no longer New. They are no longer Kids. And they really should have stayed out of the studio.

Not that they can't sing. They can, and their harmonies are tight and mellifluous, with the easy interplay of voices still there. The problem make that problems, plural is that they sound dated, doing the time-warp. Great 15 years ago, maybe.

Not now. And the beats are bland, lacking vitality. Studio-perfect and lifeless.

But the worst make that the fatal flaw is hearing guys who are all grown up now, at least in chronological age, sound as if they are sex-starved teens or 20-somethings. It's kind of creepy.

Take the voyeurism-lite on 'Lights, Camera, Action,' on which the Kids sing about well, it's obvious, isn't it? Then there's 'Full Service' on which car care is apparently a metaphor for well, it's obvious, isn't it, as the Kids tell a girl not to be nervous cos they're gonna give her full service. Ugh.

There's also 'Sexify My Love' on which the Kids reveal they are in the mood to give it to ya by which they mean, well, it's obvious isn't it?

So, vocally and musically this is a competent, studio-glossy disc, polished though soulless. But it carries an attitude that isn't sexy. Just sad.

RICHARD PATON

These five guys have certainly have made a name for themselves, even if many mainstream country fans haven't heard of them yet. With 220 live dates a year, playing to sold-out crowds of mostly college students, their first album in 2006 surpassed Rascal Flatts as the most-downloaded country album on iTunes.

RRB brings more than a youthful swagger to the rowdy party atmosphere of the college concert tour. Their vocals are tight, the musicianship is impressive, and there are melody hooks for any age group.

Their stuff isn't traditional country, but doesn't stray far from those roots. Every one of the 12 songs here has something to say about life's emotional moments, usually with realistic, gritty lyrics.

In their developmental stages, they have been chosen to open for such musical stalwarts as Willie Nelson, the Eagles, Gary Allan, and Dierks Bentley. Soon they'll be picking someone to open for them.

KEN ROSENBAUM

If the B-52s were reborn, they might sound something like the Black Kids' debut.

'Partie Traumatic,' from this Florida-based five piece, clearly evolved from the kitschy-cool party soundtracks of the B-52s. The only thing missing from this charming retro-inspired collection is the B-52s' ironic spoken narration which, admit it, was sort of annoying anyway.

Silly lyrics about panties and killer dance moves are set over infectious dance beats that would make 1982 proud.

'Hit the Heartbrakes' starts off the album with the lyrics, 'Knock, knock. Who's there? Call the ghost in your underwear.'

The energy builds on the stand-out track, 'Hurricane Jane.' 'You're such a brute/You had a ready elbow for the girls you hate or just don't know, you head-butt me/'Cos you thought it was cute.'

The only regrettable part of this album is that the Brits caught on first; 'I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You' was first released in the United Kingdom and went to No. 11 on the charts there last spring. The states have some catching up to do.

BRIDGET THARP

Hailed by Downbeat magazine as one of the top female jazz vocalists of 2007, Kate McGarry turns in a solid though unspectacular performance on this disc that includes covers of hits by Bob Dylan and The Cars, plus Great American songbook standards by Irving Berlin.

Her waltz-like rendition of Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changin' is novel in that it reaches for a jazz tempo yet doesn't quite distinguish itself. Her talents are put to great use, though, on The Cars' 'Just What I Needed,' which she transforms from bubble-gum pop into a deep, heartfelt statement of longing for sophisticated listeners.

And she comes through with a gyrating, sleek, jazzy version of the old Crosby, Stills and Nash hit, 'You Don't Have to Cry.' Though McGarry's voice has a limited range and a familiar girl-next-door sound, she knows how to exploit the nuances of music the pauses between notes.

TOM HENRY

Greg Marten, Ken Marten and James Murphy, all natives of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., dish out 14 folkish tunes of social commentary. With their acoustic instruments, they offer original vignettes of life set to music. This is pleasant listening created by a trio with a fan base at music venues from Detroit through southern Michigan.

KR



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